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Spontaneous opposition movements stealing the show

December 1st, 2014

A conservative pundit dismisses the leaders of the new spontaneous anti-government movements as daydreamers, but calls on Fidesz to wake up from what he calls its own self-satisfied dream. A left-wing analyst doesn’t rule out the possibility of a new grassroots political force emerging in Hungary.

In his regular weekly Heti Válasz editorial, Gábor Borókai analyses what he calls the two lessons of last Sunday’s by-election in the fourth district of Budapest, where the Socialist candidate scored a crushing victory with a low turnout of 33 per cent. (See BudaPost, November 26 .) On the one hand, the result clearly disproves opposition claims that Fidesz has rigged the electoral system to make it impossible for opposition parties to win. On the other hand, the Socialists won that seat in Parliament because most Fidesz voters decided not to cast their ballots. Behind their abstention as well as behind the new protests movements that have managed to stage large demonstrations this autumn, Borókai finds one common denominator – the regime change hasn’t fulfilled its main promise over the past twenty-five years, to bring Hungary nearer to Western welfare states. The demonstrators believe that it is the fault of the ruling elites of the past decades, but they are wrong, Borókai suggests. In fact, with the exception of Poland and Slovakia none of the former Soviet bloc countries of Central and Eastern Europe have managed to shorten the distance that separates them from the West. The solution the leaders of the spontaneous opposition movement envisage would be a consensual democracy functioning according to the dictates of common sense rather than party politics, but Borókai thinks this is an illusion. In our region, he continues, nations must still face powerful global forces and can only be successful if the government is strong. Such forces prefer weak governments and do their best in order to weaken the strong ones, whether through Parliament or by “fomenting illusions and confusion. This is what is happening in Hungary”, he adds. He warns, nonetheless, that it would be a mistake to believe that the government’s defeat at the latest by-election is simply the result of some conspiracy. “The continuous improvisations of the past months as well as the miserable handling of the US entry bans (on Hungarian personalities, see BudaPost, november 22) played a significant role in that failure.” 10,000 Fidesz voters stayed at home last Sunday, Borókai notes and concludes with the warning that “it should be understood why they did.”

In 168 Óra, Gábor Filippov calls it an eloquent fact that the Socialist victory was the feat of those pro-government voters who did not cast their ballots. The MSZP did not mobilise any new voters. No wonder, he continues that citizens who are dissatisfied with the government increasingly tend to place their hopes in friendly amateurish students rather than professional left-wing parties. He dismisses the misgivings expressed by left-liberal analysts (see Budapost, November 19), who call them populist and blame them for not having a clear ideology or party structure. Filippov quotes the example of the new Spanish Podemos party which has grown from an amorphous movement of “indignation” into the most popular political force today. By targeting corruption and anti-elite feelings; by redefining notions like social justice and human dignity, movements deftly using new communication channels and enjoying the benign attention of the traditional media may prove successful, he believes. Young people who have grown up in the past quarter of a century have a very different perception of the world and use a very different language to express themselves than their parents and grandparents, Filippov continues. And that goes for Fidesz too. The governing party still has substantial reserves, but it is threatened in the long run by the same kind of ageing and subsequent exhaustion which now afflicts the MSZP. The average age of its voters is slowly but steadily increasing, which means that it is incapable of reproducing its constituency because it speaks less and less the language of the new generation. In conclusion, the left-wing analyst warns that the new movements will not necessarily offer a better alternative to the existing parties, as shown by the example of some of the left-wing and right-wing protest parties in Western Europe.

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